… and I am Somebody male. in my thirties. recovering alcoholic. live in minneapolis. work in progress. gay. serenity please.

Guatemalan Goodbyes

07.15.2010 · Posted in Travel

Guatemala Day 13

As usual, I’m at the airport two hours before my flight because I’m always paranoid I’ll lose my boarding pass or passport or get held up in security. This is good, though, because I can take time to blog with a free mind, not worried about running late.

Is it odd that the Guatemala International Airport has free WiFi throughout? Are we Americans always out to make a buck? Or are the Guatemalan’s spending money foolishly to impress foreigners?

Yesterday I hit up Ganesh again for their breakfast. They serve crepes rolled up with banana and nutella inside, topped with granola and honey on the side. It’s too good to pass up. Comila was there at the bar practicing her Spanish with the barkeep, Diego. He was really friendly and made my coffee for me. I chatted with him for a few minutes and it turns out he’s also the music teacher at the Waldorf School up the hill where he teaches the kids songs in Catchequal!

I asked him about his family and growing up. He tells me that he’s from San Marcos and has family throughout the village. He’s lived there his entire life, and I guess him to be in his early twenties.

Today is my last full day in San Marcos and I take it a bit slow. Nothing on the agenda, though I do need to pick up my laundry and pack.

I stop with the ladies on the path to purchase a couple of bananas. These old ladies are all so cute. There’s usually three of them, and I will say “Benuos Dias” and they repeat it back to me in unison, big smiles on their faces. I think they’ve gotten wise as today they charge me 2 Q for two bananas after charging me only 1 Q yesterday.

I stop back at Casa de Benjamin to play with the dogs a bit and take some time to write my daily blog entry.

Afterwards I head up the hill to the Internet Cafe. The proprietor there, Chris, tells me they’ve reached their allotted bandwidth amount, but it should be reset early in the afternoon. I chat with him for a bit. He’s originally from Switzerland and came to visit San Marcos 8 years ago for a few weeks. After returning home he began to sell his belongings and eventually moved to San Marcos permanently 6 years ago when he started the Internet Cafe business and Casa Amarilla – a spa and holistic healing center down the path. He’s a bit vague in his answers, but I respect that and tell him I’ll return later in the day.

A short siesta later and I am up and back at the cafe to find them back in business. I post my blog entry and try to confirm my reservations and ride in Puerto Vallarta. The woman I’ve been communicating with there has been less than responsive. Finally, she confirmed, so I hope to be set when I arrive. I attempt to check in for my flight on Mexicana Air but it doesn’t recognize me for some reason. No matter – Guatemala International has only about 20 flights a day, so I figure I’ll be able to check-in in person without a hitch.

Zeus and I head down to MoonFish for lunch. Not seeing anything overly compelling on the menu, I revert to my staining regular order – Peanut Butter Sandwich with a lemonade to drink. It’s as good as ever.

Julia stops by and sits down looking for a little help with her written English. She needs to post wanted signs for a house keeper and wants the language right. She has done a good job, but I help her with a couple of nuances.

Next stop is the Arbol to pick up my laundry. 27 Q for a load of laundry works out to a couple of bucks. Probably about right if I were using pay machines back home. This is the second time I’ve had them do my laundry. Both times the folding seems a bit half-hazard and this time there are dog hairs all over every item. Oh well – the price you pay for having two loving companions.

I get everything straightened up so I can easily assemble it all and throw it in the bag in the morning. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time inside the house, so there’s not much to clean up.

My two Israeli friends, Elad and Noa, informed me that they were invited to cook at Ganesh this evening, so I head over there around 6:30. They have a small menu of tapas. I select the Beat Karpazio (Carpacio) and the Palenta, as well as a surprise dessert. The Beat Karpazio is delicious – varied beats sliced thinly and topped with fresh mozzarella and cilantro. The Palenta is a cornmeal-like dish with mushrooms and topped with chives and a little mozzarella. Dessert was sliced apples fried in caramel sauce and topped with a few sliced bananas and granola. It was all really good. I thanked them and stopped in at LaPaz.

Comila was there having some soup and practicing her Spanish with Maria, who as far as I can tell, runs the show at LaPaz. Comila was jokingly bitter with Maria, as she had the last piece of dessert. I feigned disappointment as well, though I was only half-kidding.

Comila tells me how she’s met a woman here who’s visiting with her mother. The younger is expecting a baby any day now and is planning on delivering it with an indigenous midwife. Comila said she’d actually done some outreach work with a group of midwives, exchanging information, customs and other traditions in the birthing process. The expecting mother liked Comila so much that she asked her to be involved in the birth. Apparently the birth is much the same as its been for hundreds of years – no drugs or anasthetics. However afterwards the mother is put into the sauna and special herbs are used in a healing process. It’s also something that most mothers look forward to after the pains of labor… though personally I think I’d rather have the drugs.

That concludes my night and I return to Casa de Benajamin for my last evening. The night is filled with strange noises and the dogs were up barking and growling all night. Some of the noises were new to me, too, so I didn’t sleep so well. A day of nap-filled travel should help.

This morning I awoke at 6:30, showered, fed the dogs, packed my bags and said goodbye to Shanti and Zeus. I think they knew something was up, as Shanti was reluctant to eat this morning and the two of them stayed on the porch as I left for the gate. Usually they’re right at my side, itching to get out into the village, so this was abnormal behavior for them.

I went down the path towards LaPaz, but it was a bit too early for them to be open. I heard music at Ganesh, so I headed up there for another serving of those nutella and bananan crepes I’m so fond of. Diego was at the bar again, and the musician from the prior night was still there. Joking, I said, “I hope you’re not still here from last night.”

Surprisingly he was. Apparently he sleeps there every other night as the gwardian (guardian), as the restaurant is quite open and thieves tend to take anything that’s not bolted to the concrete. His name is Vaughn. He appears to be in his early 20s. Very tall and skinny, with a talent on the guitar. I ask him what brought him here and he’s vague. He later makes a comment about how much he drinks and smokes pot, and I just feel sorry for him.

I finish my crepes and chat with Diego a bit while I down the last of my coffee. Then I’m out the door to LaPaz, dropping off my keys and telling the staff there one last adios. They all return the good-bye and smile. They are all very sweet.

I head up the path and find the shuttle ready with the three others I’m sharing it with. Andy is there as well and I thank him again for arranging the transportation and his hospitality and we’re off towards Guatamela City.

Four hours later and here I sit. I wonder if I’ll ever come back. San Marcos and Lago Atitlan are both special places. Not knowing if I’ll be back, I’ll always be grateful for the memories made here.

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A Cursed Day at Lago Atitlan

07.14.2010 · Posted in Travel

Guatemala Day 12

My trip to Lago Atitlan has been wonderful all around, but if I’ve had a bad day, yesterday was it.

Everything started as usual. The dogs have been in their habit of letting me sleep in, of which I took full advantage of, finally rising around 8:00. Breakfast consisted of the usual Ensalada de Fruito at LaPaz with the dogs, followed by a trip to the Internet Cafe.

The cafe was very busy. There’s been an influx of visitors lately, as there are a couple of Spanish Schools in town, and they’ve just begun a new session. The Waldorf school has just begun a month-long break as well, so that leaves both students and faculty with spare time. All of this has the cafe over-filled and I was forced to wait 30 minutes for a spot.

During this time a local boy came and stood in front of me in line – the nerve! Half my size, I stood as close to him as possible, ready to pounce on him if a spot were to open up and he attempted to grab it. One didn’t, and he left after ten minutes, but this period of tension left me cranky.

Somebody left the cafe and I went to take their spot when a straggler within the cafe took it. She was with a group of French-speaking visitors. Obnoxious French-speaking visitors. Another spot soon opened up, and while the French continued their chat back and forth across the room, three local teen aged girls gathered around another computer emitting a constant low-level giggle with intermittent screeches of giddiness. I imagined Justin Bieber on their screen, or some such teen bopper.

Is this what you people were doing in here when I waited patiently outside for 30 minutes?! Don’t you know I have important work to do? The world is waiting for me to update my blog, and Facebook may crumble without my participation! Not to mention, I have some serious email to attend to!

Today was not my day. The spirits were against me, the Mayan calendar was aligned just right. Something was conspiring to defeat me.

Breathe in, 2 … 3 … 4 … and out … 2 … 3 … 4

Things I would normally let roll off me like water were soaking into my being, dampening my spirits.

“Warhead,” recounting my DBT session in treatment 6 years prior. Yes, I’ve gotten sober just to remain a bit crazy. The world, sadly, does not revolve around me.

Leaving in just a couple of days, today is the last day to drop off my laundry at the Arbol and still get it back in time for my departure. I dropped it off there and headed to the docks, determined to make it to Santiago before I leave.

Getting to Santiago requires you to travel first to San Pedro, walk 20 minutes to another dock, and board a boat to Santiago. I’ve never made the journey, but I’ve been told that the trip to Santiago uses a much larger boat than the usual ferries on the lake, and that leg of the trip takes roughly 45 minutes if the sailing is smooth.

There are two men selling jewelry, pipes and other wares on the dock. By the smell of them, neither has seen a shower in weeks, and looking at them tells me its been at least that long since they’ve seen a razor as well.

I sit and wait for a boat to arrive when the smell of marijuana hits me. I look over at the two men, the older inhaling off the remnants of a joint in a manner I’ve never seen done without a roach clip. This guy’s got talent. The man notices my gaze, postures himself so as not to exhale and says, “You want to buy some-teen?”

“No gracias.”

Satisfied, the man puts down the joint and picks up a wooden instrument resembling a recorder that I was taught to play in 3rd grade music class. The melody is nice and his method practiced … I’m guessing he’s had the time to develop his skills.

A boat arrives to San Pedro, but sadly, the driver is only servicing a private party. I continue to wait. Five minutes later a boat docks for San Pedro. A few passengers depart as I wait to board, when another local man comes up and tries to board ahead of me. Hello, lines, people – first come, first serve, but then I remember that I’m a visitor here and the boat operators always favor the locals. Gringos are charged twice as much fare and are forced to wait to pay until all the locals have unloaded their cargo and paid themselves.

We depart San Marcos and make a stop in San Juan. Nobody boards and we continue to San Pedro. With the rising water levels in the lake, many of the docks are underwater and San Pedro’s is no exception. They have a temporary dock built while a more permanent structure is under construction. I de-board and find that the temporary dock leads to a pile of mud instead of a solid platform of some sort.

I see a large church-lick structure at the top of the hill in San Pedro and decide to make the trek up and get a photo of it. Plus, I think, from there I may be able to see the other dock I need to find for the boat to Santiago. Breathing heavy by the time I reach the top, turning away numerous TukTuk drivers along the route, I finally reach the building. It’s reached by a small road and surrounded by neighboring buildings, making it impossible to get a good complete shot of the entire building, as you’re forced to stand too near it. I take a few shots and hope they turn out alright.

It’s beginning to sprinkle a bit, but not enough to warrant me pulling out my raincoat. I decide to continue along the road to see where it takes me. Soon enough I am heading down another side of the hill. There are many little shops and restaurants here, so I am hopeful I’ll find the dock at the bottom.

I pass a police truck with one officer inside and the other outside having a cigarette and reluctantly listening to the ramblings of a drunk man sitting on the side of the road. The officer smiles at me and I continue down the mountain. As I reach the bottom of the hill, I see the dock, and with it, a large boat headed for Santiago has just departed, probably only 20 feet from the shore. Arriving at the dock, a man tells me that it’ll be another hour and a half before the next boat leaves.

Damn, I guess Santiago isn’t in the cards for this trip.

I reverse course and head back up the hill on a mission to find something to eat, and hopefully find a barber shop to get a haircut. It’s raining a bit heavier now and I don my red raincoat. None of the restaurants look particularly appealing, but I continue my hike upwards. Eventually I find myself in the street market I’ve heard of. They hold it twice a week and close off the street to vehicles, though there is a rundown Toyota pickup in the center of the market blaring music from its speakers and children hanging off the racks in the bed of the truck.

I am the only gringo walking down the street, and I am wearing a bright red jacket to boot. All other people in the market are manning booths, with a couple of locals shopping for necessities. I think I might find something in the market – to eat, or a keepsake of the trip, but all of the booths have their wares covered with black plastic due to the rain. Many people are looking at me walk down the street, and I don’t get the usual calls to buy something – just an entire market of people with covered merchandise, staring at me, including the children in the bed of the music-blaring truck.

I wonder what Hollywood film director would reproduce a scene like the one I’m in, as it’s certainly worthy of a script. I feel like a feared gun-slinger walking through a small Western town, except I don’t have a gun and I’m completely surrounded and out-numbered.

I gradually make my way through the market at an average pace. There is a policeman blocking traffic at the end of the block and I fear that he’ll arrest me for trespassing or shoo me away from the market. He does neither and I pass him without incident.

I head back down the hill towards the main docks, figuring that I’ll eat at one of the touristy places on the lake. I find a table at a multi-story joint – again, another bar that features a health food store in the basement. So strange. I’m happy they have wi-fi, but the service is lacking a bit – requiring me to go to the bar for my order, even though there are several staff there just milling about. They are out of the spring rolls I’d like, so I order a salad and enjoy the w-ifi to catch up on the latest news back home.

On my way out, I pay my bill and ask if there is a place nearby to get my haircut. They point me in the direction I just came from – back up that miserable hill. I decide one more time the hill won’t kill me and begin the jaunt upwards. The rain is starting to come down a bit harder at this point and I’m happy I brought my raincoat.

I reach the top of the hill and the rain has reached El-Nino status and I jump into a bodega. I ask the clerk there where the salon is and she points across the street to a closed shop. She says it’s closed, but opens in an hour.

Seriously? I missed the boat to Santiago and now a haircut, and I’m stuck in a bodega at the top of the hill in San Pedro with a tropical rain storm between me and the boat that’ll take me home? I’ll bet the Mayans predicted this thousands of years ago. I should have consulted Chuice before getting out of bed this morning.

The clerk just stares at me, as if to say, “Buy something or get out,” so I depart down the mountain through flooded streets and a seemingly 45 degree grade. Praying I don’t fall, it’s really of no use anyhow, as my shoes are now soaked and my shorts wet through to my underwear. Good thing I brought this raincoat, I think.

I stop briefly at an overhang next to a lady selling banana bread. “Banana bread?” she inquires.

“No gracias.”

I stay there for a few minutes, wondering if I should try to wait out the storm, or if its of no use. The banana bread lady tells me to go now, as if the storm is letting up somewhat, but I think she just wanted me to go because I didn’t buy anything. I decide to chance it and continue down to the docks. The rain had not let up.

I get to the docks and the tour group that had reserved the first boat to San Pedro is hogging all of the space beneath the overhang. Bitter, I walk around them, through the mud, to a boat on a far dock that’s departing for San Marcos.

Confirming my destination with the driver, I hop in the empty boat and wait at least 20 minutes before he departs. As I sit there, I take stock of my situation, removing my raincoat under the shelter of the boat’s roof. There’s not a lot to take stock of, as I am thoroughly soaked to the core, I didn’t make it to Santiago, and my hair still needs a trim.

The driver finally sets us off from the dock toward San Marcos. I’m sitting in the rear of the boat near him, and he asks about my red coat. First he wants to know how much it costs me in the US. I answered roughly $20. He asks to examine it and I hand it to him leeringly. “How much for me?” he asks.

“No gracias. Not for sale.”

Later in our journey across the lake, the driver receives a telephone call and turns off the boat engine so he can better hear the phone, leaving the ten or so passengers just floating in the lake. This continues for five minutes or so. He ends his call and puts his head down on the steering wheel, still no power to the engine.

“Hooollaaa?” I ask, everyone craning their necks rearward, as I’ve just interrupted the only person with the power to get us back to shore. The gods were now acting in my favor, as he erected himself, started the engine, and resumed course to San Marcos.

Upon returning to Casa Benjamin I removed my clothes, hung them on the line, and retired to the bedroom for a siesta.

Upon waking I headed to LaPaz for dinner. Comila joined me and we chatted about her Spanish lessons. They’re 4 hour one-on-one sessions and really intense. At the 3 hour point, she was getting antsy and the instructor chastised her. She’s also a bit frustrated at all the gringos in the village, because after she leaves her class time, she reverts to speaking English with the gringos in town.

I stop in at Il Gardino to see what they have for dessert and to visit with Theresa and BerTwan. They prepare me some fruit with fondue chocolate. The chocolate dish isn’t nearly large enough, but I don’t complain.

Later Theresa and I are alone and I ask her about her pregnancy, noting her pronounced belly and maternity-style dress.

She swung her head back and laughed, “You are the 3rd person to ask me, and I am not pregnant – I’m fat!”

I try to backtrack to no avail. She claims to think it’s funny, and as she writes up my bill I can hear her laughing with BerTwan about it. I feel utterly terrible! I pay and tell her I think she’s beautiful, which isn’t a lie – she is, but I don’t think she believed me.

I returned home and went to sleep with the dogs, same as always, and putting an end to a cursed day.

Time Warp

07.13.2010 · Posted in Travel

Guatemala Day 11

I’ve discovered that if I weather the initial storm with the dogs in the morning that they’ll let me be and go back to sleep – which is exactly what I did, sleeping until around 8:00. I woke up and skipped the regular morning routine of coffee and writing and headed to LaPaz, where I did my writing with breakfast.

The yoga farm isn’t quite ready, so the yogis who are planning on visiting there have stayed an extra day here in San Marcos. Matt, one of the student instructors, joined me for breakfast. He began studying yoga at 14, but rowing was his primary interest as a teenager – rowing competitively in the Junior Olympics and into his first year at college. An injury forced him from rowing, when his interest focused in on yoga more intensely. He studied Buddhism and Religion at Harvard, where he graduated last year. He’s now here in San Marcos for the yoga training and will return to his hometown of San Francisco in 5 to 6 weeks after spending some time at the yoga farm. As we were talking he also mentioned that he worked on an ecological farming project on the mountainside with Josh earlier this year. On his return to San Francisco he’s hoping to teach Yoga and work for a friend who has recently started a raw foods meal replacement company that has distribution through Whole Foods.

After finishing my writing I headed over to the Internet Cafe to upload my blog post. On the days that I’m unable to get a signal, uploading is actually an exercise in transcribing from one digital medium (my iPad) to another (the public computers at the cafe). The cafe was full, without an open computer, so the dogs and I sat on the curbside greeting passers by and chatting with those we knew. Andy and Annie were at the cafe and Andy came over to confirm the shuttle time on Thursday morning. The two of them have been so helpful to me and they have no reason to be, other than a desire to be helpful. It’s very refreshing.

I stopped back at LaPaz to see if Sol was around and whether or not we were still on for the massage that day. He was, and confirmed we could meet at 2:00. LaPaz was abuzz with activity, one yoga class finishing up and the other waiting to begin. It seems the yogis appreciated their extra day in San Marcos as well, giving them more time to do laundry and wind down from the training course.

Shanti was off in the village somewhere doing her own thing, but Zeus was still hanging with me. I headed over to MoonFish to see what I could find for lunch. I was about to order my standard Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich, when the pancakes jumped off the page at me! Whole wheat with yogurt, fruit and jam. I couldn’t help myself. Of course, the ever-present honey bees at MoonFish couldn’t help themselves either, but I managed.

I stopped at home for a quick shower and then headed over to Sol’s for my massage. Sol’s home is situated up a rocky hill from MoonFish, just along the shore of Lago Atitlan. Mara, Sol’s girlfriend, greeted me. It’s the first I’ve seen her in several days, as she’d spent the last three days in Andrew’s Dark Room. “Hola! How was the dark room?”

“It was a really good experience,” she told me with a smile. “I’m sorry, I just have to tidy up a bit. Can you wait outside for five minutes?”

I walked around to the rear of the house and took in the scenery. This truly was a magnificent spot to live! Perched about 30 or 40 feet above the shoreline below, with a clearing in the trees offering an unobstructed view of the lake and volcanoes in the distance. On the side of the house they had a fire pit and working area. It began to sprinkle a bit as I sat there, though the sun was still shining. I observed an old ferry boat used to transport people among the villages, anchored off-shore a bit in the lagoon below. A man was aboard tying on tarps and closing the window flaps, and when finished he swam ashore. I asked Sol who that was and he said it was the owner of the MoonFish cafe. I wonder if it’s his own little “fort” or if he spends his nights there, as I’d seen the boat there before and it doesn’t seem to get much use away from the shore.

Sol invited me in and we began the session in front of an open window overlooking the lake and the rain creating a constant tapping on the roof. Incense burning in the corner and a slight breeze coming in through the window. The setting alone would have been enough to send me into a blissful state.

The Thai massage was a new experience for me. It involved various stretches and applications of pressure. Sol also instructed me to breathe deeply, which I did throughout the session. Some of the stretches were quite foreign to me – one in particular had me lying on my stomach with one leg pulled up vertically behind me and then stretched forward as far as possible. Other stretches worked my hamstrings in pleasurable ways and the pressure he applied to my glutes was pointed and intense. Upon finishing I felt so good that I began to leave without paying him. He had to stop me as I began to walk up to his gate. I was quite embarrassed, but I’m sure it wasn’t the first time that’s happened.

I returned to Casa de Benjamin after my session with Sol. Though I had eaten a couple of hours prior, the body work seemed to have awoken some unforeseen hunger. I wondered if it got my intestines moving and emptied my stomach, or if perhaps I am just growing accustomed to all of the good food here in San Marcos. At home I took out the dragon fruit I had purchased from the path ladies the day before. Unsure of exactly how to eat it, I peeled off the skin and found the interior to be red with small seeds. Aside from the color, it appeared much like a kiwi on the inside, and tasted like one as well, though not quite as tart as a kiwi. The dragon fruit and a banana and I laid down for some reading and a siesta.

After my nap, Zeus and I went for a walk. Shanti, we discovered, was up at the internet cafe, perched outside. I hoped that she wasn’t there since this morning, thinking that I was still inside! These dogs are so wonderful – I’ll miss them when I leave.

Back to LaPaz for dinner. Some of the yogis came through but headed over to Ganesh for dinner. I ate the dinner special alone and read my book. After finishing an Israeli couple I met a few days prior stopped in to see what was for dinner. They opted to stay and I ordered a cup of green tea and stayed to chat with them.

I didn’t catch their names, but they are a couple – man and woman, both in their late twenties. I told them of the other Israeli I had met last week and of his travels. They told me that his travels, after his military service, is a common practice among Israelis. They described themselves as late-bloomers, not traveling until their late twenties.

I asked them about their life in Israel and they told me quite an interesting story. They had been involved in what they described as the “Youth Movement” as kids, and now older, are involved in the “Grown-up Movement”. I asked what the movement was seeking to do – was it a political or social cause of some sort? They told me about their Kabutz – I’m guessing on the spelling here. During the 80s and into the 90s, there was an economic downturn in Israel, and many families and friends formed a common living environment called a Kabutz. Everything was shared – clothing, food, money, responsibilities, etc. Over time and as the economy rose up again, Israeli society has stepped away from this lifestyle in favor of a more western, capitalist style of living. Their movement, as they described, is an effort to return to the Kabutz lifestyle. There are now four Kabutz communities across Israel that are a part of this movement, and they are working with people in Germany who are using a similar method there. While back in the Kabutz heydays of the 80s and 90s, up to 2,000 people might live in one Kabutz, though their own Kabutz is occupied by only 70 people. It was all quite fascinating!

I took my leave of the Israeli couple and headed over to Fe to see if Christina was working. I found her and short James, from New York, having a chat in-between Christina’s serving duties. There was only one couple in the restaurant, so she wasn’t very taxed. The other couple was British and James pointed out how when British people curse, it sounds so much more vulgar. We all agreed.

I ordered a piece of the lime cheesecake I enjoyed previously. It was just as good as I had remembered. Christina had no change for my 50 Q, so I was forced to order a piece of chocolate cake as well. A pity, really.

I sat and chatted with them for some time. James was planning a trip to New Orleans in the Fall and Christina, having grown up there, was making a list of places for him to visit. While doing so she reminisced about her life there and how the oil spill is ruining the natural beauty of the landscape.

Christina closed up the restaurant and the two of them invited me to Ganesh for some socializing. I declined and headed home.

Reflecting on the day I’ve come to think that the more time I spend in San Marcos, the more I become convinced that it’s stuck in a time warp back to the 60s generation of free love and radical politics, with a mix of new-age mysticism and yoga. I know of no other place quite like it.

Cold Showers, Fruit and the Evolution of Telepathy

07.12.2010 · Posted in Travel

Guatemala Day 10

My morning began with my hour-long ritual of coffee, dog-feeding and writing at Casa de Benjamin. I warmed up the water heater for a morning shower today and hopped in at the end of my normal routine.

The shower – rub is really quite extraordinary. Built into the ground, you step down into an over-sized tub area, built of flat-sided slate-like rocks, with cement mortar keeping the shape. Then there is a border of garden area surrounding the tub with various plants growing. On one side of the wall there is a formation of boulders roughly 4 feet high that actually makes up the wall and extends outdoors.

As soon as I had the shampoo lathered in what little hair I have, the water began to spurt and went dry, leaving me there naked and cold. Not the morning I was hoping for, but at least I can be grateful I had already had my coffee!

There was enough water in the pipes leading to the kitchen sink to rinse out my hair. I went outside in my towel, to the outdoor sink area, where the water pump is situated. i examined it as if I knew what I was looking at, but soon gave up, seeking a sympathetic ear with the dogs.

I made my way to LaPaz, where there was already quite a morning crew gathered. Comila, Randi, BeDontin and some of the other yogis. I ordered my usual Ensalada de Fruito with only bananas and a caffe. Then I used all my wits to pull together what little Spanish I know, in combination with pointing and sign language, and finally resorting to English when necessary, to explain that the water was out at Casa de Benjamin. After a couple of exchanges they figured out what I was trying to say and made a phone call, presumably to Sebastian.

I sat and chatted with some of the yogis and enjoyed my breakfast. Some of the yoga crew had already departed for their next destination or Guatemala City for the airport to return home. Those remaining either hadn´t left yet, or were visiting the yoga farm near Santiago today.

I made my way for the Internet Cafe up the path to make my daily blog post and make sure that Facebook was still running without my regular updates. It was!

Katey, Josh´s friend who teaches at the Waldorf school in town, stopped by the cafe. She recognized Zeus and Shanti waiting for me on the path and I had discussed with Andy perhaps sharing my shuttle on Thursday morning with her.

Zeus, Shanti and myself headed up the hill into town. I watched the soccer match for a bit and then decided to see if I could find Andy and Annie´s house on my own. I knew it was somewhere near the school, which was directly up the hill from the stage, so I ventured westward on the road. I tried a couple of paths continuing up the hill, as I knew Andy and Annie´s house to be, but I was unsuccessful. I walked through a short maze of local neighborhood, with a few townspeople and their dogs, all barking at Zeus and Shanti, who simply walked by with their tails wagging at a pace that spoke their comfort level. We ended up near Blind Lemons, giving me a frame of reference to return home.

It was around noon and I stopped back at Benjamin´s to check the water. Still none, so I headed back to LaPaz to check their status. The lady in the kitchen made another call and said that somebody would be over by 2:00. I sat for a hwile and ordered a smoothie – banana, papaya, strawberry and pineapple. It´s really hard to go wrong with all the fruit in this village!

I went back to Casa de Benjamin for my afternoon siesta, hoping that the water would be back online by the time I woke. I got up an hour or so later, and the water was working again! I was ecstatic and prepped the shower and enjoyed an extra long time under the hot water.

I went for a walk and stopped in at Blue Lili to chat with Christina for a bit. We talked about her 6 weeks in Mexico living in an artists´commune, playing soccer and learning English. She talked of feeling sad that so many friends had recently departed and the nature of living in a transient area like San Marcos. She´s been here several weeks so far and seems determined to make this her home for at least the near term.

I stopped with the path-side ladies who sell fruits and vegetables from their garden. They´re always friendly and smiling and I always say hello and “Benuos Tarde” or “Benuos Dias” depending on the time of day. This time, however, they had dragon fruit! I´ve only been told of it, but it´s rumored to be spectacular. I purchased a couple along with a couple of bananas. It felt good to finally buy something from them.

I also had to make a trip up to the town centre to purchase some toilet paper. They sell it by the roll and it comes in a brown, non-bleached color. It´s sort of like the texture you find in public restroom paper towels. I purchased two rolls at a cost of 3 Q.

I stopped at home to drop off my purchases and read for a bit, then headed over to LaPaz a little early to socialize and get dinner. The yogis were gathering and had just returned from their trip to the yoga farm. They talked of the farm and how nice it felt to be done with their training course. Guya, the little pup, continued to torment Zeus and Shanti, but Zeus has snapped at her with less frequency.

I sat down and chatted with a new hotel resident, Brenda. She´s from a small town in Wisconsin between Madison and Milwaukee. Her travel mate arrived and the two of them departed. Shortly after the yogis left for a planned dinner at Fe. Around the same time, Sol arrived and sat with me.

Sol is the French Canadian from Montreal who´s been living here in San Marcos for 15 years. Tall with long hair and a beard, I think of him as Jesus, though I keep this to myself! He tells me he likes my energy and asks about my spiritual life. I tell him about my recovery and how I´ve been spirtually-based since I got clean 6 years ago. I had asked him the other night at the going-away gathering at Il Gardino what sort of body work he does, as I knew he did massage. He tells me that he specializes in water massage and Thai massage. He explains that the water massage is really a great meditation, as well as physical relaxation. It´s performed in the lake, floating on your back, with the masseur performing the work while standing on their feet. He´d like me to try it, but diving into the lake seems like too big a step for me and I tell him I would probably be more comfortable with the Thai massage. We set a tentative time for the following day, depending on a class he´s teaching and how many participants attend.

Sol also talks of society and problems as a human race. He thinks there may be a change in 2012 or sometime soon, in which the system will crash and we, as humans, will have to evolve. If not physically, evolve as a race in the way we treat each other, how things are governed, etc. He tells me that he thinks we may evolve mentally in the form of ESP, telepathy and / or energy manipulation. Sounds far out, and I am open to his ideas, but I doubt we´re all going to become telepathic at one moment in time.

Sol departs and my dinner arrives. Soup and veggie pizza with the standard LaPaz salad. They have some cake made tonight, so I enjoy that as well with some green tea. While eating I read a WIRED magazine article that a friend passed along. It profiles AA for it´s 75th birthday and talks of various brain chemistry studies that may correlate to successful sobriety found in AA. It´s interesting, but I think we´re a long ways from determining the actual chemistry of God.

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More New Friends in San Marcos

07.11.2010 · Posted in Travel

Guatemala Day 9

I am spoiled by the coffee here. I´ve never been one who can appreciate the nuances of coffee, but I can tell you if the coffee is good or bad – and the coffee here is good.

The dogs let me sleep in on Saturday until 8:00 AM! I wonder fi they are able to tell what day of the week it is. I can´t imagine they can, because many people here work 7 days a week, but perhaps they have some trick or internal Mayan mechanism 🙂

I continue to get more in-tune with Zeus and Shanti, and them with me. The other day Zeus performed his grooming bite on my arm – it was so cute! Then last night Shanti tried to get into bed with me. I felt bad pushing her out, but she must know better.

I headed out the gate for LaPaz´s breakfast and noticed a woman carrying her bags up the hill with Darwin, one of the local dock boys, always willing to lend a hand for a few Q. “Hola” and on my way – they seemed to have it covered.

A short while later the two of them showed up at LaPaz. Darwin took a seat while the woman spoke with the ladies in the kitchen. She returned in a moment, dug out a few Q for Darwin, and he as off to find his next unwitting victim.

I introduced myself to the woman – blond, mid-twenties, straight hair just beyond her shoulders, held back with sunglasses above her forehead. Her name is Randi, from Boca Raton, FL.

Randi was here just three weeks ago for a week, hanging out with the yoga crew. She “just didn´t know how she could NOT come back to this place” and hence, here she sits. She´ll be traveling with some of BeDontin´s disciples to his yoga farm near Santiago on Sunday, stay there for a few weeks, and then return to San Marcos for an indefinite period of time, as she bought a one-way ticket.

We talk about our backgrounds and our paths here. After some discussion on meeting people here on a spiritual basis and developing a higher level of trust from the get-go, her energy and excitement overwhelms her a bit and she begins telling me other things. How she and her business partner recently split and she was laid off, so the decision to come to San Marcos was made easier. She was able to find somebody to sublet her car and apartment and here she is. I tell her a bit about my recovery after she inquires about whether I´ve been enjoying the bars in the area. She gets a bit intrigued, telling me of her idea to start a yoga-based rehab. Admittedly, she knows nothing about the actual rehab part of treatment, but she´s certain that it´d make a good reality show – her friend in L.A. told her so.

I chuckle a bit inside, as Randi is right where I was at 23 or 24.

The yoga crew emerges from their morning session and Randi greets most with hugs and excitement, telling them of the hardship of her journey with all the luggage and her one-way ticket leaving destiny unbound.

I head out to mill about the village a bit. I have no plans, no commitments or obligations. I stop in the town centre a bit to watch the youth play soccer. They are very good for their age and have seemingly endless ene3rgy. I played soccer in my youth but was never very good, finally telling my parents after a few years that I didn´t want to do it any longer.

In a while it´s lunch time and I decide to finally give Ganesh a try. Ganesh is located a stone´s throw from LaPaz and I´m told operates as a collective of chefs from various backgrounds.

Sitting atop a small store, I check out the store first. They have a book rental area, as well as the standard tourist tees, bags, jewelry and pipes. Marijuana seems to be a way of life here, and I think that probably contributes to the slower pace of things.

Finding nothing of interest I head upstairs to Ganesh. Two young men I recognize from the village are eating together and two ladies from the yoga training course are gossiping in hushed tones at the bar. The man behind the bar greets me and I order some crepes on the menu – rolled with nutella and banana inside, sprinkled with their own granola and a few slices of watermelon. It is quite the treat.

After the other patrons leave, I strike up conversation with the barkeep. His name is Alexis. He´s been in San Marcos for 6 years, hailing from Germany. He and his partner Brad run Ganesh. Alexis in the mornings and Brad in the evenings. Brad coordinates the various chefs and music as well. I´ve often heard a live band from LaPaz at night – the singer has a raspy voice but did a fabulous rendition of Bush´s Glycerine the other night.

I notice bongs on the top shelf, above the liquor, and a sign for their health food store offerings. I ask Alexis about the seeming contradiction and ever-smiling he says they offer a bit of everything here at Ganesh. It´s the perfect combination, he explains. They had many ideas prior to opening, so they took a b9it of everything and mashed it together. I think to myself that it sounds like this business has an identity crisis, but given there are only a handful of bars in San Marcos, I think it´ll probably work – at least in the short term. Though as Chuice pointed out to me, once the bars come into town, the identity of the village changes drastically. I doubt if there is any turning back.

I make my way up to Blind Lemons, as I´ve been unsuccessful posting the day´s blog entry via the cellular network and I have some photos to upload. I arrive and don´t even get my iPad pulled out before I meet a guy named Chris, sitting alone with his laptop opened. He´s half watching the world cup and half scribbling in his notebook.

We begin chatting for what ends up being a couple of hours. He is 37, a native of Miami, but moving from TX to Chicago upon returning from his trip to Lake Atitlan. He is staying at what he terms ¨Pierre´s Prison¨up the hill – a property with four or five apartments that the Frenchman Pierre rents out to visitors. Chris has applied the Prison nickname because it´s up the hill and apart from the rest of the village – isolating one from the ongoings of the town.

Chris has an impressive background, having been a lawyer and a published author of two books. He´ll be in Chicago teaching and working on a PhD program in creative writing. He´s attractive, but I´m unsure if he´s gay. During the course of our discussion, we get into some deep topics, as I find happens easily here in San Marcos. Turns out that his first published book was an ethnography of Latin men and machismo and masculinity. It chronicled his own journey through Latin America and his conquests hooking up with men along the way. I conclude that probably qualifies for gay.

He is in San Marcos trying to sell another book idea as well as physically recuperate from a jogging accident he had where a car ran into him. Though he´s missing 10 days of memory, so he´s unsure exactly what happened. He hit the side of his head, lost hearing in that ear, lost his sense of smell, and his balance has been off. He´s working with yoga and other core exercises in an attempt to restore his sense of balance.

Zeus pees in the corner of the restaurant, and one of the kitchen ladies gets upset, so I take it as a cue it´s time to leave. Chris and I wish each other well and I head back to Casa de Benjamin. After all, it´s beginning to sprinkle and I´m overdue for my afternoon siesta.

I awake in time for the dinner special and head to LaPaz. They are serving a hot vegetable soup and a potato bake dish alongside the customary LaPaz salad of cucumber, tomato, shredded carrots, a bit of lettuce and avocado slices, all topped with a bit of yogurt dressing. As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed every last bite and wonder if I will continue this vegetarian diet when I return home. (Doubtful …)

It´s the yoga crew´s last day, and they have been instructed to wait in the restaurant while some sort of graduation surprise is being prepared in the paloppa. As I head home, they are preparing blindfolds and are invited back into the jungle. Tall James tells me Goodbye, as he´s departing early in the morning, but that perhaps we will meet each other in Puerto Vallarta, as he´s traveling there next as well. It truly is a small world.

I am home and in bed by 8:00 PM, reading my iPad book, the rain coming down hard and the dogs at my feet.

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Pana Again and Book Seeking

07.10.2010 · Posted in Travel

Guatemala Day 8

Morning rituals lead to LaPaz for breakfast with Zeus in tow and Shanti somewhere in the village doing her thing. I decided to spice it up a bit and ordered the french toast instead of my usual Ensalada de Fruit o. It was yummy.

I chatted with another of the hotel guests, Sylvia. She is traveling alone for 7 weeks through Central America, ultimately ending up in Nicaragua for a project she´s to be working on. She´s French, but appears to be of African descent. As I speak with her, I find that she is a child psychologist and has worked throughout Africa, South and Central America. She names off a number of countries I haven´t heard spoken since 7th grade geography.

We talk about wanting to visit Santiago, the most indigenous and authentic of all the Lago Atitlan Pueblos. Its a large village and yet only 17 gringos live there – reported by a man who purports to keep track of such things. Its a somewhat complicated journey, as you must take a boat across the lake to San Pedro, where you de-board and walk a ways to another doc, which runs a different boat to Santiago from there.

Sylvia heads out for a day´s journey and Rico joins me. He announces that he is to leave for Shala today after breakfast. I tell him I will accompany him to Pana and show him where to pick up the chicken bus. He orders oatmeal as I read from Reminiscences of a Stock Operator from my iPad.

Rico is shortly paid up and suited up with his backpack and Indiana Jones hat. We head to the dock and board a boat to Pana. The ride is rather smooth and quick, though the boat is quite full. I ask about his hat and he tells me he purchased it in Peru, but it got wet in Honduras and the black dye mostly washed away. It would seem they have cheap construction in authentic looking leather goods in the 3rd world, just as much as in the 1st. The hat is otherwise interesting, with hieroglyphics etched into the leather and a loose-fitting strap that falls under the wearer´s chin for those windy occasions where it might blow off.

We arrive in Pana after customary stops in Tsunana, Jabolita and Santa Cruz. Rico wants to get a picture of us on the dock and we head over to a less hectic dock next to the one we de-boarded from. We ask a man to take our photo, but he is unwilling, “no photo” and waves us away. We ask a man waiting in a boat to depart and he gladly accepts. The two of us pose at the end of the dock and the man with the camera wants to do more shots, but we decline and head up the hill.

Rico suggests we get a TukTuk to the bus stop, but I assure him its only a short walk and we depart from the docks. About a half mile later the bus stop is just within sight – much farther than I remember, and then I look at Rico with his heavy pack and think, I should have taken his suggestion with the TukTuk.

We still have time for the next bus that departs for Shala, so he asks about the Crossroads Cafe I´ve told him of. Excited, I gladly show him the way!

We approach the cafe from a different direction than before, and I notice an AA clubhouse – how awesome! Unfortunately they have meetings only at 8:00 PM, after the last boat departs for San Marcos. I snap a few photos.

Soon we are sitting at Mike´s coffee bar enjoying the rarest coffee in the world – grown atop the highest point in Guatemala, roughly 14,000 ft above sea level, and of course, his wife´s spectacular baked goods. I couldn´t resist the carrot cake once again, but Rico orders a piece of blueberry pie. Mike services him up a more than generous portion and I get a taste of it and think, I should really try new things now and then.

We meet a girl in her twenties who is in town for Spanish lessons, though she has been in Guatemala annually for the last 6 or 7 years on missionary work with her church in Ann Arbor, MI. She strikes up a conversation with another patron who supplies her missions with local supplies.

Mike and Rico discuss his next stop and Mike recommends a “great bakery run by a Palestinian woman.” I don´t know if this is a sore subject for him or not, but neither I nor Rico mention that he´s just served 6 years in the Israeli army.

I ask Mike if there´s a good bookstore in town where I might find something to read in English. He recommends the Bus Stop Bookstore. Both he and his regular, Dave, the Austin grad student, try to give me directions, but I´m too fresh in town to know the landmarks they speak of. They assure me I can´t miss it, as its right next to the chicken bus stop, hence the name.

Rico and I head out, returning to the bus stop. We say our goodbyes and get each other´s Facebook contact information.

I try to seek out the bookstore but am unsuccessful. The people I ask stare at me blankly. I end up in a part of town I´ve never been in, and am stuck at a dead end when I discover a fallen bridge taken out in the last storm and must turn back.

I give up on my bookstore search and head to the bank, where I exchange some additional US dollars for Guatemalan Q. It makes me nervous to carry so much cash around, but I will soon need to pay my bill at LaPaz and San Marcos, as with most of the lakeside villages, has no ATM or bank. Very few of the businesses accept credit cards, so one is forced to keep cash on hand or take a boat to Pana each time you want to get cash.

I make my way back to the dock and come across an internet cafe and it occurs to me I´ve got an iPad now, with umpteen million ebooks available to me online! It seems all this time in the third world has me forgetting my technological capabilities in just a week. I stop in at the cafe and find a book that Chuice had recommended to me about the Mayan Calendar. All this Mayan stuff has me very intrigued.

Back at the Pana docks the sky is turning dark. Its about 1:30 in the afternoon now, and it appears as if the daily rainfall is going to start early today. I board a boat and wait for the driver to fill it more completely before he´s ready to leave. By the time we do depart, there are no open seats and the sky is ominously black, yet still no rain.

We aren´t 50 feet from the shoreline before the waves begin to toss the boat around. Water splashes into the boat as the side flaps are blown upward. The group of indigenous women scream as they are drenched in the spray of water. Because the waves are so high, the driver keeps us at a slow pace. Its roughly another hour of rough seas until we arrive at San Marcos and my eyes never leave the life jackets mounted under the roof of the boat.

I head up the hill to the Arbol to pick up my laundry. I´m excited to see it come back dry and folded! The rain is beginning to come down now and I return to Casa de Benjamin for a nap and plan on attending the 5Ñ00 meditation at the Pyramids. My body has other plans, however, as I slept until 6:30. I think I was tired from the boat ride, rigidly holding myself in place for an hour´s time.

The rain is still in full force and the dogs and I head to LaPaz for the dinner special. It´s not quite 7:00 yet, and there are a few folks in the restaurant lounging about for us to socialize with. Three folks from the Yoga training and one newcomer, Comila (pronounced Com-illa). She explains that it´s her spirit name, but her given name is Kristen.

Comila is a hit with Shanti, who finds Comila missing her own dog and more than happy to give her a lengthy rubdown. Comila joins me for dinner and we get to know each other a bit. She grew up with her father in the marines, moving around from Hawaii to Virginia. She´s now a counselor for emotionally disturbed youth and has worked in Africa and will shortly be returning to school to attain a masters degree. As coincidence, or fate, or the Mayan calendar, or whatever, may have it – she knows BeDontin, the yoga course instructor, from 5 years prior, when they were both in yoga training together.

Comila is a vegetarian and is happy to find that LaPaz serves only vegetarian fare. We both enjoy the broccoli soup and the veggie pizza served for the dinner special. The nightly yoga course begins and she joins them, leaving me with my iPad book to read.

Tall James from Central California joins me. He is sitting out of the class tonight with a bum neck he injured in a headstand pose. We chat for a while as he eats and nurses his neck with a makeshift icepack provided by the ladies in the kitchen. We are both bummed that LaPaz doesn´t serve dessert and he tells me that Blind Lemons, up the hill, serves an ice cream brownie that I will certainly have to try!

We head our separate ways and I am in bed by 9:30, the dogs watching over me from their resting places on the floor.

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Goodbyes and Mayan Calendars

07.09.2010 · Posted in Travel

Guatemala Day 7

Yesterday I got up a bit early by 6:00 and enjoyed my normal routine with the dogs, coffee and writing. I went up the path to the Town Centre and picked up a couple of granola bars at a bodega. Zeus followed me up there, but Shanti took her time and found her own things to do closer to the house and LaPaz. I secured a TukTuk and headed up the mountain to pick up Julia and go to Nadja’s house.

Nadja’s house was already alive and kicking at 8:15 AM. Pete had spent the night, as well as the usual suspects: Maryjann, Nadja and Josh. Shadow, the dog there, greeted me by wagging its tail and rubbing its body against my legs.

Maryjann and Pete were enjoying a HUGE breakfast Maryjann had prepared and Josh and Nadja were getting the last of their things together and jokingly accusing the other of taking so long to get ready.

Andrew arrived shortly and we took our leave of Maryjann and Pete, heading down the dock to catch a boat to Pana. The boat was so full that Julia and I had to sit on the rear, where the engine is mounted and the driver operates. It’s a bit scary being so exposed back there, but it provides an exciting, freeing sensation when the boat is at speed and the water of the lake is only inches away rushing by at about 20 mph.

A few stops later and we arrived at Pana, where our first stop was the travel agency near the docks. Nadja and Josh confirmed their reservations for a noon departure and left their bags with the staff. We began walking towards town and Nadja reported that it was the best travel agency in town. She had frequently changed her reservations and the manager simply said, “Ci, its bien” every time without a complaint or hesitation. Andrew beat me to the response, guessing aloud that there likely was no reservation – they just hoped they had enough room for everyone when they showed up. It wasn’t as if they had an elaborate computerized booking system. He went on and on in his own special way that he does, going into intricate detail about how the minds of the operators must think, and how the business functions, with occasional bits with incredulous unlikelihoods … and on and on, until somebody finally tells him, “Andrew, enough.”

Our first stop was Cafe Crossroads where three of the same regulars were sitting at the bar again. Dave is about my age and a Latin-American Studies graduate student living in Austin, TX, but visiting Pana for a few weeks. Camo-pants guy is about 20 and is a font of knowledge, and like Andrew, has a tendency to take hostages if you enter conversation with him. Though his conversations tend to be about topics you’d hear from the geeky kids in high school who played Magic The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons. Aside from the cam pants, he wears a black t-shirt warning of a zombie revolution and giving a website address. He has what I’m guessing to be neck-length, straight black hair, except it’s tied up to the top of his head, where it sprouts out like a mushroom – just like Pebbles’ hair, Fred and Wilma’s daughter in the Flintstones. Then there is the Sally Struthers look-alike, and being this is the 3rd world, who knows – perhaps it is – though this Sally has tended to her diet a little better. I’ve noticed she always orders a coffee and a piece of carrot cake – she’s my type of gal. She talks of things like her home in California and her apartment in Pana, and how the filtered water in the large bottles is too heavy for her to life and she has to fetch her building caretaker to mount it for her.

Julia wasn’t with us on our last visit to the cafe, but its clear right away that she’s known Mike for a while. They begin chatting and Mike is preparing a package to send to an old traveling buddy in the Netherlands. Julia’s agreed to take it to her on her next trip back later this month.

Nadja and Josh each order the New York Special, which appears to be a latte of sorts, with some chocolate topping, served in a bowl. It’s really the bowl that makes it special – I’ve never seen coffee served in a bowl before! We all enjoy our coffees and cake items and head out for one last picture, that Dave, the graduate student, agrees to take for us.

Next stop, the bank, where Josh cashes in a large quantity of 1 Q coins. To those of us left outside waiting I retell the story of the TukTuk driver who ran over a man’s foot and then proceeded to chase him down the street while his TukTuk sat blocking this intersection during our last visit.

Josh appeared from inside the bank and we headed down the market street towards the docks, looking for their favorite deli. Josh queries the group – who has to go to the bathroom? We have to plan it out accordingly, because every time we’re there if too many people in our group ask to use the bathroom they suddenly tell us they’re out of water. Three of the group reply with an affirmative, and they devise the best plan is to simply ask if they have water before asking for the bathroom. I find this all quite comical and ridiculous, but these are the strange rules a gringo in Pana has to learn.

I ordered my traditional Granola con Yogurt with banana and honey. Josh gets the breakfast burritos, Nadja orders a salad and Julia gets the vegetarian chili. Andrew orders only a cookie. The space is kind of cool – there’s a large tree growing up in the center of the building, with the seating area situated around its perimeter.

We depart and head back towards the docks to the travel agency. We’re a bit early for their shuttle, so Nadja and Julia begin examining some of Nadja’s skirts she’s making with the locals. Julia went so far as to try one of them on and parade it in front of us. A couple of the dock men didn’t seem to mind.

The shuttle arrived a short while later and we said our goodbyes. Andrew was particularly emotional, as so many of his friends have left in the last few days. I was sad, as I won’t see Josh again any time soon. He is going to stop in Minneapolis for a week, but I will still be on vacation in Puerto Vallarta during that time. After that he’s going to be on an organic farm near the Minnesota and South Dakota border for the summer. I’m certain we’ll meet again when the time is right.

Julia, Andrew and I took our separate ways. Andrew back into town for errands and Julia to the hardware store and internet cafe. I headed to the docks to catch a lift back to San Marcos.

Back in San Marcos I stopped in at the Internet Cafe for a moment and then made way for LaPaz for the lunch special – a bean and tofu dish with rice and salad. Their meals are really very good and I always enjoy the ladies in the kitchen.

While in Pana Josh told of a man in San Marcos who could tell you about what your birth date could reveal when examined on the Mayan calendar. Josh said that his meeting with the man was very interesting, and the man was “dead-on” in many regards. A bit skeptical, I got the details and met this man, Jesus, or “Chuice” in the indigenous Ketcheqal language, at his place of business near LaPaz. I gave the man my birth date and time of birth and we setup a time to meet a little later that evening.

I returned to Casa de Benjamin for a siesta and woke in time to return to the Holistic Center for my meeting. We met in a sparse, newly remodeled room with only two chairs and a small table. He began by showing me the Mayan cross with the various energies laid our according to my birthday and what they meant. One of the primary energies represents the feminine, or passive role. My energy also represents the Mother Earth. He said that I could probably relate my life experiences to the experiences the Earth was having – with inhabitants taking from the Earth and offering little in return, the disaster in the gulf, storms, etc. I asked how this ancient civilization was able to sense these energies and measure them, and why weren’t we able to do so today? He said that the Mayans were physically different, with their heads elongated with differently shaped, and larger, brains. He said it was likely they were able to physically sense the energies. With that ability, they were able to map out the cosmos and predict when planets would align, solstices and equinoxes would occur, etc. The Hollywood hype about the end of the world in 2012 is just that – hype, he said. According to the Mayan calendar, it simply just the beginning of the next period on the calendar. He had a word for it, but I don’t recall it – something like the next century, or the next millennium.

He spent nearly two hours with me in total and I enjoyed my time with him. He explained to me that he is what’s called a Mayan Timekeeper – a keeper of records. He’s part of a larger organization of people like himself and suggested further reading if I was interested. The biggest take-away I got from our meeting was that my next birthday, according to the Mayans, is on July 24th – just a couple of weeks away. I’ll be in Puerto Vallarta. He encouraged me to do something special for myself that day, and to pray and meditate – this will be my opportunity to start a new cycle of my life, he said. Skeptic or not, I’ll give it a shot.

It was 7:00 PM by this time and I headed over to LaPaz for the dinner special. There were a number of people hanging out there, getting ready for a talent show that the yoga retreat had planned. They invited us non-yogis to come watch, so Vanessa, Rico and myself went with.

I hadn’t seen it before, but through the jungle paths at LaPaz, there is a large round meeting area with a concrete floor and traditional thatched roof. Everybody sat in a circle with musical instruments – moroccos, drums, and BeDonta, the lead instructor, had a small stringed instrument. (Note: BeDonta always makes me think “Bedonka-donk”)

It was interesting to see how this group interacted with each other. They are here with each other almost non-stop for about a month to receive their 200 hour yoga instructor’s certificate. They’ve clearly bonded with each other and have shared some good times. Lots of laughter and cheering each other on.

The first presentation was a slide show of photos taken around the village set to music, an improv dance performance by two participants, a game of toss-the-raisin-into-your-partner’s-mouth by two others, an original poem reading, and other silliness. I quietly stepped out near the end to grab some dinner before the kitchen closed, but I was grateful to bin invited into their circle.

After a quick dinner I headed home with the dogs and went to bed reading Neitzche’s Beyond Good and Evil. I’m not so sure I’m ready for the deep philosophical stuff, but I fell asleep feeling peaceful.

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WiFi, Acupuncture and Capitalism

07.08.2010 · Posted in Travel

Guatemala Day 6

Yesterday began with the normal routine with the dogs, coffee and writing. I then met Josh at LaPaz for his last Ensalada de Fruto breakfast there.

We talked for about an hour. I asked him about his stay in Lago Atitlan thus far and how he felt about moving back to the US for the summer. He talked about coming here after being so unhappy in Minnesota, not really thinking much about the decision, but just acting and moving forward. It wasn’t until after he arrived that he began to wonder just what he was going to do here. That passed, though, as he found a job, continued meeting people and becoming part of the community. He told me that the most important thing he did for himself was to make goals each day, and then set out to complete them.

As I’m thinking of goal-setting now, I do engage in the act, but I don’t think of it as goal-setting. I’ve generally made to-do lists, or running tabs in my head of things I have to get done. I’ll then mentally check them off as they’re completed. A feeling of satisfaction will come when I check something off the list, but the more profound feeling is one of relief – as in, “Phew, I’ve got that finished, I can rest a little now.”

Perhaps a change in perspective is in order. If I congratulate myself on a goal accomplished, rather than resting with a feeling of relief, maybe the task will take a different shape in my mind. I’m going to try this.

I stopped in at the internet cafe after breakfast and ran some errands around the village. Later I met up with Rico and Vanessa at LaPaz where they had just finished with the morning yoga class. Vanessa has really begun to enjoy the yoga and seems to be glad she tried it. Rico had signed up to meet with the therapist for acupuncture. It’s something he does quite regularly back home in Israel, and is hoping it will help his shoulder that he injured a few weeks ago while traveling. I decided to sign up after him, as I’ve never done it before but always been interested. Vanessa was referred to a massage therapist somewhere near the MoonFish Cafe, but didn’t know where it was, so we headed in that direction to explore.

There’s a hill just beyond the MoonFish. I knew that there was a hostel up there, but little else. The hill looks inviting, as there are large rocks creating a natural staircase along the shore up the hill. Vanessa journeyed over the hill and found Sol, the therapist’s home and made an appointment for a little later that afternoon. I stayed behind and ordered one of the MoonFish’s peanut butter sandwiches. Its a creation made of their own warm bread, sliced banana, with their own peanut butter and honey – truly spectacular! They grow all of their food right there at the restaurant. It’s so cool to me that these places are little self-sustaining venues. Vanessa went to use the toilet and found that even the bathrooms are eco-friendly – as they have a sign that says, “Solo Popo”, which she found to mean only one person can poop at a time, as there’s a bowl in which to do it. Apparently they use it as fertilizer or something, as there are no flushing toilets. She passed on the composting toilet opportunity and headed back to LaPaz to use the restroom there.

Rico stopped in at MoonFish as well, as he was told that they would have the World Cup game on, but there was no television in sight. He and I ventured up the western path towards Blind Lemons, where I knew there was a large TV with the game on. On our way there, we found a large group enjoying the game at the Ketcel – another hotel and restaurant in the area. Rico stayed there and I continued up the hill in hopes that Blind Lemons may have their internet WiFi back up.

To my surprise, the WiFi WAS back online – that made me happy! The service and menu there is lacking, though, but I made due, finally being able to order a carrot juice. I updated apps on my phone and iPad and uploaded some photos. I have yet to make them into a gallery, but you can be sure I’ll post them here when I do.

While at Blind Lemons, short James from New York came in and sat with me for a while. He was venting frustration at the yoga instructors course. On the spectrum of yoga practices, this one is a bit out in left field for him – as they get up every morning at 6:30 and bang drums in a group to bring out their individual inner animal spirits, interrupted every so often with “Three Minutes of Bliss” in which the group becomes silent and closes their eyes. His description sounded a bit too left field for me, too, but I told him about my experience with acceptance. It seemed unlikely he will change the instructor’s teaching style, but he could accept the situation, knowing he has only a few more days. He didn’t seem receptive of that idea, and began copying down lyrics of Lean on Me from the internet – hoping to introduce a group song at the next inner animal chanting session.

I went back to Benjamen’s for a short nap, after which I headed over to LaPaz for my acupuncture session. Rico was just finishing up his meeting with Michelle, the therapist. She was showing him some exercises to perform on his shoulder. These appeared new to him and he looked intrigued, so I hope they help.

We chatted for a moment and she lead me back to a small building where she performs her therapies. Zues and Shanti followed me through the jungle as they are prone to do. Michelle was familiar with the dogs and was surprised that they followed me right into the building. She said, of all the dogs in LaPaz, these dogs know they aren’t allowed in here! We shooed them out and closed the door. We could tell they were still outside, as one of them was wagging their tail rapidly into the door, banging it back and forth in the little wiggle room it had in the door frame. I enjoy these dogs so much!

We sat and discussed her therapies in general. I told her how I’ve always tended to run out of breath too soon. I’ve had asthma in the past, but since I stopped smoking three years ago, that’s subsided. She asked me a series of questions and decided she would concentrate on my heart as the focal point of her therapy session. I was a bit uneasy about the needles in general, but she demonstrated them to me and convinced me to give it a shot. I laid back and she placed needles between my eye brows, in my hands, elbows and ankles. Accompanying the acupuncture she also performed cranial sacral therapy – a practice that affects the cerebral fluid found only in the spinal cord and surrounding the brain. She instructed me to breathe deeply and the session was complete after about 20 minutes. She removed the needles and told me to take my time getting up. The sensation I had was a bit strange. I felt noticeably dizzy and my feet unnaturally light. The closest feeling I could use to describe it was the sensation you feel when you get off of a stairmaster or elliptical machine and walking feels strange again until you become acclimated to it.

Michelle told me to use aloe on my skin, but also to drink it, and to eat the flesh of a coconut. She also advised that I try the meditation sessions offered at the Pyramids – a central spot for those seeking spiritual growth here in San Marcos.

I had to run and meet up with the gang for dinner. A large group of us were meeting to send off Josh and Nadja, Maryjann and Pete. They are all planning departures in the next day or two. We met at Il Gardino, where Bertwan and Theresa served socialized with us. It turned out Nadja was not feeling well and stayed at home. The group consisted of Andrew, (The dark room guy), Julia (the Dutch filmmaker with the fabulous house atop the hill), Josh, myself, Mara (lives above the bookstore), Maryjann, Christina (the former farmer from northern California who works at the Blue Lili) Sol (the massage therapist that Vanessa went to), and Pete. There were a couple others who came and went throughout the night, but that was the core group. Most of us ordered the lasagna, with a couple of salads. Three folks also ordered dessert, but I abstained – I was so proud of myself! I also ordered tea instead of coffee and slept better as a result.

The discussions abounded with stories of the adventures that had taken place in San Marcos and the other pueblos on the lake. I took out my iPad to show pictures of Julia’s house. Nobody had seen an iPad before and everyone was enamored with it – this sort of technology hasn’t yet penetrated the Central American jungle. After the initial shock and awe, Julia was browsing through the photos and found one in particular, a shot of the view, looking over the valley and the lake, that had an odd, golden half-circle shape in it. There was debate for the rest of the night as to whether or not the shape was a UFO. We weren’t able to come to any other conclusion. Picture to come soon.

Do you think its a UFO?

Do you think its a UFO?

Later in the evening, Julia asked Sol what he thought of the expansion of San Marcos. Sol has lived here for 15 years, longer than anyone else in the group. He talked about how the village used to be comprised only of the indigenous people. Each village on the lake had a specialty and San Marcos produced traditional bags, made of small strands of rope, created by twisting together the fibers of a cactus plant. Andrew interjected with the story of how the land used to be held in common, but 25 years ago, the government changed the system and granted people land-ownership. At the time it seemed like a good thing, but it has only served to create a capitalist system here. Now foreigners with money have come in and purchased the land. Sol continued, saying that nobody used to work for anybody else and the land and resources were shared. Now most people have a boss, and work for a foreigner who has money, owns the land, and runs a business.

I thought about this last night. Its as if one society has overrun another, though not by war or force – more like a virus. It’s too bad, as the Mayan culture is being eradicated as time goes on.

I have to prep for a trip up to Nadja’s house, where we are departing on the dock for Pana, where I will say my goodbyes to them.

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Vertical Endeavors

07.07.2010 · Posted in Travel

Guatemala Days 4 & 5

The dogs continue to wake me at 6:30 every morning, as if set to rise by some internal Swiss clock. I enjoy it, as I have been going to bed around 10:00 and reading for a while, and it seems like the right time to get up and about.

Sebastian and his two helpers are making great progress on the tree in the front yard at Casa de Benjamin. They have all of the upper branches down now and are beginning to cut manageable-sized logs for use as firewood.

The other day they were caught in a heavy downpour of rain, with one of the men high up in the tree. I was inside the house working on my step work when it began. They took refuge on the other side of the window from me, under the safety of porch. I went to them and asked if they’d like water or coffee and despite the language barrier, I could see the enthusiasm in their faces. It seems that all Latin Americans drink their coffee with leche (milk); unfortunately I didn’t have any, but provided them with all the sugar they could desire. They have been gracious to me until now, but it seems since the “coffee event”, they go out of their way to say hello to me.

Day 4 was very rainy. I read much of Siddhartha and napped. I also made my way to the internet cafe up the path. They have six workstations and a couple of plug-in ethernet cables for use with laptops. Unfortunately, or perhaps an omen that I shouldn’t be using it, they have no wi-fi service, so I have been unable to upload photos from my iPad.

The highlight of the day came in the evening. I met Josh, Nadja, Maryjann and Maggie up at Nadja’s home at the top of the hill, though this time I cheated a bit and found a TukTuk driver to take me. I paid him 15Q, probably 5 – 10 too many, but at least I arrived with no heavy breathing involved.

We stayed there for roughly an hour while Josh finished his dish of vegetarian chili and we waited for Nadja to return from work. Josh was also preparing a chocolate sauce-covered fruit salad for dessert. I assisted by eating the leftover chocolate scraps and ‘cleaning the bowl’.

Nadja arrived and we headed down the hill to Julia’s house, where the dinner was to be hosted. The walk down to Julia’s house is very near the base of the mountain, near the village, however, the walk UP the mountain to the house is quite steep, and dare I say, probably 500 feet. I now see why Julia appears so fit.

The prize at the top of the hill, however, was spectacular! The house has been in the making for two years, but that seems to be normal here. Especially considering that all of the materials have to be brought up the vertical climb by hand, as there is no way to get any heavy-duty equipment up the mountain given the terrain of her property. A local American architect designed the house, and his crew has been constructing it. Julia showed us the rain water filtration system and solar-powered water heating coils in the rear of the home. She’s quite proud of this particular feature, as it makes the house fully self-sustaining. There is also a gray water tank that’s used to catch water for flushing toilets.

In front of the home is a large cement, semi-circular platform extending roughly 30 feet out from the house. At its edge is a pool and hot tub, built into the platform, with an infinity pool effect at the edge. Unfortunately the weather that day didn’t provide much sun, so the pool hot tub was not suited for use. The edge of the pool and platform sit high on the mountain, with only a few trees and Lago Atitlan below. There is no railing to provide safety, but the view is unobstructed.

The pool

The pool

At the house’s center is a two-story circular structure. The first floor of which is actually only a half-circle, where the kitchen is laid out along the front arc overlooking the lake below. There is a wood-burning stove in the center, and a stairway that leads upward along the curve of the circle. The stairs themselves are large boards of wood seemingly magically suspended, only appearing from the wall outward.

Halfway up the stairway is a door to the master bedroom on the right. This room juts out of the circle, shaped squarely. The bed is highly elevated atop a set of drawers and the mattress runs even with the windows overlooking the lake. In the rear of the bedroom is a door to a 3/4 bath.

Continuing up the stairs brings you to the great room. The floor is a beautiful tropical wood, of which Julia couldn’t recall the species. There is a round fireplace in the center of the room, directly atop the wood-burning stove in the kitchen beneath. Part of the circle is open to the staircase and kitchen below. Large full-height windows line the front of the circle, overlooking the lake again. The room has very high ceilings, probably 20 feet high at the center. The roof is a traditional thatched roof made of bamboo and leaves.

A door opposite the circle from the master bedroom leads to a few short stairs up and angled to the rear of the property. The hallway is painted pink, with indirect natural lighting provided by an artful use of glass block, cutaways in the wall and wooden boards every five feet or so in the hallway. It produces quite the effect, as not just the walls are painted, but also the floor and arch-shaped ceiling. It is quite the site. The first door on the left leads to another 3/4 bath and the second door, on the left at the end of the hallway, leads to a second bedroom. Both the bath and bedroom off of the pink hall also include lake views.

The Pink Hallway

The Pink Hallway

Julia prepared seaweed chips dipped in a batter and fried in oil, then served with a dish of the amino acids soy-sauce substitute you find in health food stores. They we DELICIOUS.

Andrew, of the famed Dark Room, joined us a short while later and prepared a salad.

We gathered up in the great room, sans furniture, to eat in front of the fire. There was a lightning storm directly in front of the house, over the lake. Loud claps of thunder would strike the windows and the fire crackled and popped throughout the evening.

Josh had added too much chili powder to the dish, and the level of spice was nearly unbearable. He is such a good cook, but was seemingly mislead by the powder’s labeling. In an attempt to subdue the spice, he had added chocolate to the chili. We tried adding tortilla, salad and even Andrew made a batch of pasta, but I wasn’t able to get it down. Some were more successful than I. Nadja, with draining sinuses and a near inability to close her mouth, muttered out between chomps, “I think it’s powfect. It’s baww good.” To which I laughed out loud and observed her draining sinuses and difficulty in swallowing. We all chuckled a bit.

Dessert was a saving grace, and we all downed the fruit and chocolate in a fury. After dessert I went downstairs to begin the dishes. The rest of the crew remained upstairs and Andrew picked up Julia’s guitar and began performing a song for Maggie, as she was leaving in the morning to continue her journey. Andrew was quite marvelous, making up the chords and lyrics on the fly, and the structure of the house provided a magnificent amplifier of the sounds.

Some of the group asked to see Julia’s latest movie, so she setup her laptop to begin playing. Interested, but tired, I said my goodbyes and headed down into the village. The home’s steep incline provided to be just as difficult on the way down in the rain with a small flashlight, but I was able to make it without a slip.

The following morning I met up with the gang at Nadja’s house to depart for Pana to see Maggie off. Julie and Maryjann stayed behind, while Josh, Andrew, Maggie and myself made it down the hill from Nadja’s to the dock to wait for a ferry.

Pana is the largest village on the lake, sitting on its east-most point, though it’s more of a city with a population of roughly 60,000. The ferry ride took approximately 30 minutes with a couple of stops between. Approaching the Pana docks we observed a two or three tower hotel of roughly 20 stories on the northern shore. Josh told us that it sits nearly complete, yet vacant, and has been for quite some time. Several stories have been told as to its fate. Some say that the locals didn’t want such a large resort on the lake, and that the negative energy from everyone prevented its completion. Others say that the locals hired to build the structure conspired to sabotage the project. One story went so far as to say the elevator shafts were built of the wrong size, and wouldn’t properly accommodate the elevator cars.

Being the largest pueblo on the lake, the docks are a gathering spot for local street vendors. The damage to the dock and surrounding landscape from the recent rain and mudslides also appear in Pana, though there was a large street crew at work performing repairs there.

We made our way through the main market street, where one can purchase nearly anything. We arrived at a bank, where Maggie and Josh used the ATM. While waiting for them to complete their transactions I was observing the busy intersection, where a policeman was directing traffic. Keep in mind that stray dogs, people, motorcycles, trucks, TukTuks and inattentive tourists all exist on the street, and things can get somewhat hectic with the policeman’s whistle and cars horns. As one TukTuk came through the intersection, at the proper direction of the policeman, a local attempted to cross the intersection. The TukTuk tried to swerve out of his path, but caught the man’s foot. A stranger on the side of the road came over and began yelling at the TukTuk driver, at which the larger driver got out of his TukTuk and began arguing with both the stranger and the man with the now-gimp foot. Things turned a bit violent and the TukTuk driver nearly beat the two men to a pulp, but they ran away. The entire debacle was merely watched by the policeman, laughing quietly to himself and directing traffic around the vacant TukTuk blocking the intersection.

Josh and Maggie finished their transactions and we headed deeper into town to the Crossroads Cafe – a coffee shop run by a husband and wife team with the help of their daughter. Mike, the patriarch of the family, was originally from upstate New York and his wife, who wasn’t present, was from South Africa. I believe the family settled in California before departing south.

The Crossroads Cafe

The Crossroads Cafe

Mike was a very happy man with lots of energy. He ran a smooth and efficient business in the small shop and never ran out of jokes and friendly mockings. Josh purchased six pounds of coffee to return to the US with, and we all ordered drinks and baked goods. And what FABULOUS baked goods they were! I ordered a piece of carrot cake. Andrew had a cinnamon roll. Josh had a walnut, white chocolate, and berry cookie, and some of us went for a second dessert – myself included.

Aside from two regulars and ourselves, a tour group of roughly 8 – 10 people came in and filled the cafe. A handful of other locals came in, ordered and departed as well.

Mike showed us and the tour group his “secret room” where he stores and roasts his coffee. He told people to make sure to keep it a secret, while at the same time showing a tour group the entrance. It was a bit comical.

The secret room

The secret room

We next stopped in at a grocer’s where Josh picked up some things. Then we were off to the bus stop where we said our goodbyes to Maggie and waved her off.

Andrew stayed in Pana while Josh and I made our way back to the docks to board a ferry back to San Marcos.

In the afternoon I explored the village a bit more on my own. I discovered another main pathway that runs parallel to the main path up and down the hill to the lake. At its top is a restaurant and bar I had heard about called Blind Lemons. They were rumored to have wi-fi, which I was excited for, but upon arriving discovered it had been broken for several days. Another omen perhaps.

I returned to LaPaz for a hummus sandwich for lunch. Stopped in at the internet cafe to check emails, and returned for a short siesta in the afternoon.

For dinner I headed back to LaPaz where I met up with Rico and Vanessa, whom I hadn’t seen in a day. The two of them have been spending time together, which is nice to see – they make good companions for each other. Vanessa overcame her fear of being the newcomer in the yoga class and enjoyed it. I had introduced her to Nadja and the two took it together. Nadja later told me that the class lasted 3 hours, though obviously it wasn’t all intense.

The three of us decided to try Restaurant Fe for dinner, just down the path. There I discovered that Kathy, the Brit who runs the Blue Lili coffee shop, also runs Fe. She was there acting as the server and sharing a bottle of wine with her accountant at the table next to us.

I had the Thai Curry. Rico and Vanessa shared a pasta dish and pizza. I also ordered a Lime Cheesecake for dessert. It was all rather good. We discussed their trip to Pana and the Crossroads Cafe. They told me about their yoga classes and trip to the Sauna, which I will surely have to try from the description Vanessa gave! Salts to remove toxins, followed by aloe for moisturizing.

It’s now Wednesday, Day 6, at 8:30 and Josh has just arrived to pack some of his belongings. We are headed to LaPaz where he is to enjoy his last LaPaz serving of yogurt and granola.

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Personal Legends

07.05.2010 · Posted in Travel

Guatemala Day Three

I’m getting into a normal routine here where the dogs wake me up at 6:30 AM, I make my coffee and feed them, and then write for an hour or so on the porch – where I am now.

The dogs are grooming each other. Roosters in every direction are waking up the neighborhood. Various birds are singing their morning songs. The hummingbirds are zooming past me to the various flowers that Benjamin has throughout his yard.

Around 8:00 or 8:30 I will walk to La Paz. Per Benjamin’s instruction I let the dogs out to roam the village in the mornings. Zues will usually follow me to La Paz and stay with me for a while, but Shanti takes her time down the path and by the time I reach La Paz she’s nowhere to be found.

It’s still a bit unnerving for me to let the dogs roam free. No collars, no fence, just their own free will and the faith that they will return. At first I feared for their safety as well, but I’ve come to realize that most of the villagers know the dogs by name and as for the other dogs in town, well, Zues and Shanti are well cared for and well fed, hence they are the biggest dogs in town. They ain’t show’n no ribs 🙂

After breakfast yesterday I lounged at La Paz and finished The Alchemist. What a wonderful tale of following your heart and discovering your own personal legend. I also liked the theme carried throughout that people come into your life for a reason, though you usually don’t know the reason immediately.

That theme has certainly been true in my life, and I’m grateful for the many people in it. Even though at times I was not, or am not, the most welcome person to approach or be near, people have loved me, helped me, shown me what they know, and mentored me forward in life. Family members, friends, coworkersnd business associates, and most recently, those in recovery. It’s in this latter group of people that I met Josh, my friend here in San Marcos. He lived in one of my sober houses and did such a wonderful job following his own heart and seeking his own personal legend that he was at peace most of the time, and was a positive force in the house. When I purchased my second sober house, I asked him to live there and manage it. He did so for roughly two and a half years. Nobody could have done a finer job. In doing so he helped me, helped numerous residents, and I think helped himself along his own path.

Josh has been a good friend to me and showed me that straight men can be better friends than gay men at times. Its easy to get close to him, as there’s no sexual energy there. Aside from that aspect, he’s been a wonderful human being, always showing love, compassion, and wisdom. I am grateful he has come into my life. It is because of him that I am here in Guatemala and discovering the life around Lake Atitlan.

I returned to the house after finishing the book and took a short nap. Maggie came to get me at 10:00 for a birthday party we were to attend for one of Josh’s host family’s two year old son. Unfortuantely I slept through her knocking and missed the party. I felt bad, as I think it was important to Josh. He also baked a cake for the occasion that I missed out on.

I discovered Christina and Pete at the small porch at Blue Lili – a coffee shop along the path. They were weaving jewelry. Pete was showing Christina a specific method, but kept confusing himself, though Christina picked it up quickly despite. Christina made me a freshly squeezed fruit juice of mangos, pineapple and strawberries that was very good.

As we were sitting there chatting, one of the neighborhood dogs, a particularly scrawny, but adorable, puppy of a few months age, came running out of the shop with a full bag of bread in tow. Pulling at it with all his might, trying to get out of sight as fast as possible, but it was no use, as it must have been nearly as heavy as he was. We all laughed at the sight of it, but Christina grabbed it from his jaws. The dog simply looked up at her with it’s mouth open, tongue hanging out, and wagging its tail at her, as if it were a game. The darling little bugger continued to seek out food within the shop, acting as if nothing had happened and he were as innocent as he looked with that cute face and wagging tail.

Nadja, Josh, and Maggie returned to the neighborhood after their party. I apologized for sleeping through it. They seemed to think it was okay – I must have needed the rest. We returned to Casa de Benjamin, where Josh picked up some of his belongings that he was planning to give away. He also gave me two other books to read. One, Sidhartha, I have read before when I was about 17 years old. I had a hard time following it at the time, or perhaps I just didn’t have enough life experience or other necessary perspective, so I’ve decided to read it again.

It’s interesting in reading the introduction, a short bio of its author, Herman Hesse. It sounds as if his own life was quite interesting. Perhaps I will seek out a full-length biography next.

We returned to the path, as I needed to get a new jug of drinking water and dog food for Zues and Shanti. There were several people coming and going and mingling on the path, and they seemingly all know Josh. He takes his time and talks with everyone, exhibiting patience and compassion that I struggle with. As my sponsor says, I’m a work in progress, and I will continue to work on these things.

We made our way up the path to a bodega, where Josh showed me how to exchange the water jug for a new one, and how to get the dog food. We ran into yet more people in the store who greeted Josh as an old friend.

From here we went our separate ways. It was beginning to rain and the girls wanted to get back to their home in the hill before the downpour started and I was growing hungry.

I took my leave of them and returned to La Paz for the lunch menu. I had an open-faced sandwich served on toasted bread with tofu on one half and humus spread thickly on the other. It was delicious, though the next time I think I will stick with the humus. It’s probably the best hummus I have ever tasted.

I stayed around a while afterwards reading my new book and hoping to meet some of the others staying there. The rain was coming down with some regularity at this point, and I think it kept many people indoors, as only one other person came by. Her name was Michelle, a student facilitator for the yoga training course being conducted at the hotel. She lives in New Hampshire and this was her first journey out of the country, aside from Canada.

We chatted for a while, talking about what brought us to San Marcos and the energy found here. She told me about their yoga training and how she came to be a student facilitator. We talked about how GOOD the humus sandwhich was, and other things we were learning in the village.

I returned to Benjamin’s house for another siesta, as the rain left few other options. I awoke around 5:00 PM and the storm was in full force. Thunder and a downpour of rain. The dogs had not returned earlier, so I worried that they may be at the gate, waiting to be let in. I got dressed and put on my raincoat to check. Nothing, just a stream running down the path.

I walked up to La Paz to see if they were there, and happily they were. Wagging their tails and smiling in their own way, they greeted me. I was very happy to see them. I ordered a cafe americano, negro, and began reading again, waiting for the rain to subside. In about an hour’s time it did let up a bit and I returned the dogs to the house, and then went back to the hotel for dinner, where it’s served nightly at 7:00 PM.

It was getting quite dark by this time and I discovered I forgot my flashlight at the house. I returned down the path and came across a young man with a large backpack, encircled by four young local boys. “Buenos Noche” I greeted them. He responded in English, “Do you know of a hotel around here? Preferably cheap?” I realized he must have just come in off the dock and the youngsters were trying to hustle him for information.

I told him, “Yes, come with me.” Still raining, we returned to the house to obtain my flashlight, and then returned to La Paz, where he got a room.

In the restaurant I met a girl named Vanessa. She too had just arrived in San Marcos today. Rico, the newcomer I met on the path, joined us shortly and the three of us enjoyed the dinner together.

After eating we had coffee and sat for a couple of hours, discussing our journeys to San Marcos.

Vanessa had recently moved to Vancouver three months ago, but had been traveling for the past two. 25 years old and a nurse, her travels began in Hondouras and led her up to Guatemala, where she volunteered in an orphanize for a couple of weeks. She then made her way to Antigua and other towns, finally reaching Lake Attitlan a couple of days ago. She spent her first couple of nights in San Pedro, as it was her birthday and she heard that was the village to go to if you wanted to have a good time, but she quickly grew tired of it and came to San Marcos.

Rico, also 25, had been traveling for four months throughout Central America. He is Israeli and spent the previous six years in the military there. Six months of backpacking through central america was his reward to himself. He had visited many of the same places that Vanessa had, so they had much to talk about. He was very tired from his journey that day, having traveled from Antigua and transferring on many chicken buses – each one of which tried to hustle him for more money. Finally arriving at Pana, he took the ferry to San Marcos, having heard that this was a spiritual center on the lake.

Rico plans to return to University in Israel in a couple of months and is unsure if he wants to study Chinese Medicine or Economics. I told him I had just read The Alchemist, and to follow his heart. He read it as well and seemed happy that I had also.

We were joined late in the evening by two young guys, both named James. Tall James, with long blonde hair in a pony tail, and obviously one to imbibe on the local marijuana crop, was very friendly, with a permasmile affixed in place. He was here for the yoga training and visiting from Northern California. Short James, an Italian from New York, was also attending the yoga training, but it seemed that he fell into it while traveling through Central America, rather than planning the trip to attend it.

We all chatted for another hour. The guys were obviously all interested in Vanessa – the new cute blonde girl in the village. Rico was as well, but he was exhausted from his trip, and was also staying in the same dormitory as she, meaning he probably didn’t have to compete as hard as the other boys. Me, well I wasn’t seen as a rival 🙂

James and James offered us all a joint. Vanessa, Rico and myself declined. Vanessa went up to bed, and us four boys continued to chat while the ladies at La Paz closed the restaurant and let us be. We talked about oddities in the village. The third world environment with Elton John’s Greatest Hits playing on the restaurant stereo. James’ told us how it was amazing that he could buy a quarter to a half ounce of weed for only 100 Q. I talked about how I saw a hummingbird actually perched on a plant, and not buzzing its wings. Short James made a joke that even the hummingbirds here are on “Guatemala Time”. We all laughed at that, and the two smokers among us thought it was REALLY funny.

A short while later I returned to the house. It was only 10:00 PM, but I was ready for bed, where I read a bit more of my book and fell asleep to the sound of rain on the roof with the dogs at my side.